DALLAS, March 6, (RNS)-- The National Association of Evangelicals formally addedits voice to the current debate over government funding of faith-basedprograms, passing a resolution Monday affirming "charitablechoice" legislation that has boosted such funding.

"The National Association of Evangelicals supports the concept ofcharitable choice, not only as effective public policy, but as a soundexpession of faithful Christian discipleship," said aresolution adopted by the board of the evangelical umbrellaorganization.

The statement rejects the theory that denial of governmental aid toreligious charities should be viewed as an effort to be neutral.

"The Establishment Clause is not violated if the government assistsall social service providers, and funding is equally available tosecular as well as faith-based organizations," the resolution says.

It also opposes governmental distinctions for funding between"essentially secular" programs affiliated with a religion and socialwelfare programs with overtly religious aspects.

"In sum, faith-based charities should not have to hide their lightunder a bushel in order to obtain public funds on an equal footing withsecularized social service providers," the resolution reads.

But it adds a note of caution for religious organizationsconsidering government funding, noting they "should always be vigilant"and decline funds if the aid would compromise their beliefs.

The NAE membership consists of 51 evangelical denominations and agencies.